Another Prairie Dog Central train was robbed on Sept. 1 in Gross Isle, but the villains in question aren’t your typical bandits.
Prairie Dog Central has been offering The Great Train Robbery experience in support of charities with some of the staff taking part in the experience for over a decade.
“This is my ninth year,” Corinne Nykorak told The Interlake Spectator on Sept. 4. “When I first started, I was on the train, but I’ve been riding (the horses as a bandit) for the last four years.”
Nykorak is a part of a group called The Prairie Gunslingers, a group of horseback riders from the Manitoba Interlake that stage train robberies, and are also available for hire as Sheriffs at corporate events.
“It’s addicting, that first time that you rob the train, you just want to do it again and again,” Nykorak said.
Albert Gunn, the head porter, said that when the act begins, the train begins to slow and Gunn lets the children know they should watch out for the bandits.
“I tell the kids, ‘I want you to help us out,’” he explained. “‘I was just talking to the conductor and he says that we might be coming across a problem on the track and we need you to keep an eye out and see if you can spot any mounted riders on horsebacks. The first one to see them, shout out and let us know.’”
The train then slows to a stop, the bandits board and the families are robbed, all according to plan. They also have ‘Sherrifs’ board the train and hand out Sherrifs’ badges to the youngsters.
“The presentation with the horses are just amazing,” one of PDC’s trainmen, Chad Corrin, said. “Everyone just seems to love it, all the passengers really adore it and have a fun time.”
Gunn explained that while most of the kids have a fantastic time, some of the younger children don’t always understand that it’s just a performance and that the train isn’t actually being robbed.
“The horses are surrounding the train and the kids are just going wild,” Gunn explained.
“Of course we get one or two that are a little on the young side and they think it’s real and they start to cry, so then we have to stop and say to them, don’t worry about it. It’s not real, it’s not real. It’s make-believe.”
Nykorak said that she and her fellow thieves let the kids know right away that it’s just a play. “The looks of the kids that don’t know anything about what’s going on, some of them cry, so we just take our bandannas down and show them that we aren’t real robbers,” she explained.
All of the robbery money is collected by the event to raise money for local charities. This year’s all donations collected will go to Helping Hands for Manitobans with Breast Cancer
Helping Hands for Manitobans with Breast Cancer Inc. provides assistance to Manitobans experiencing financial difficulties while undergoing treatment and follow-up for breast cancer. They assist primarily with the expenses that can simply fall through the cracks, such as parking, medications, lymphedema garments, wellness programs, rural client mileage/meals/accommodations to appointments; and many more. They receive no funding from any levels of government nor any other cancer organizations and rely on donations, grants, third party fundraisers, and its own fundraisers, according to PDC’s website.
The next PDC Great Train Robbery will feature Bonny and Clyde and their gang of bandits on Sept. 16 and the last Cowboys and Gals edition of the robbery will take place on Sept. 30.
With onboard live entertainment performed by the Audayo Brothers, the train makes its way from Winnipeg, though the prairies, to the rural community of Grosse Isle. During the stopover, attendees can enjoy a tour of the steam locomotive and the restored Heritage House, East Rosser School and take a moment in the church, before heading back to Winnipeg.
For more information about events like these at PDC, visit pdcrailway.com. For more information about the Prairie Gun Slingers, visit prairiegunslingers.com.